Staff Sgt. Brandon Aird, 173rd ABCT PAO via Wikimedia Commons

President Trump needs a better response to the “Russian Bounties’ issue. In a recent piece, I noted that the media was creating a firestorm over whether President Trump had been briefed on contentious intelligence that Russia had been offering Taliban fighters bounties for killing Americans in Afghanistan.

I also argued that if confirmed, these Russian actions were serious and required a strong US response.


The evidence seems to confirm Trump’s statements that he had not received a verbal threat briefing on this issue, even if the White House had been made aware in March, or earlier, via a written Presidential Daily Brief (PDB).

I also noted that the illegal leaking of this highly classified intelligence to the New York Times had damaged the ability of the Intelligence Community (IC) to properly vet the intelligence and confirm Russian culpability.

None of that has changed.

However, President Trump’s comments since have been less helpful. While Trump’s frustration with the media is understandable, and it can be argued that the story – as spun by the media – is yet another anti-Trump “hoax,” the potential issue of Russian military intelligence paying terrorists to kill American troops is not.

On July 1, Trump tweeted:

The Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party. The secret source probably does not even exist, just like the story itself. If the discredited @nytimes has a source, reveal it. Just another HOAX!

Trump then repeated the message in a second tweet – saying it was “all made up Fake News Media Hoax started to slander me & the Republican Party. I was never briefed because any info that they may have had did not rise to that level.”

ABC News reported that top White House aides argue that “the president wasn’t actually calling the underlying intelligence ‘fake’ but was instead taking issue with media reporting.” This is not an unreasonable argument, like Trump’s statements regarding the media reporting on the Wuhan COVID-19 Virus as being a hoax, not the virus itself.

ABC News continued by quoting National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien:

I think what is a hoax is the initial reporting,” …O’Brien told reporters at the White House Wednesday. “And I believe this was The New York Times — that the president had been briefed about this unverified, uncorroborated intelligence, and chose not to take action on it. That was a hoax, and there’s no question about it.

I will agree with O’Brien on that. As expected, much of the reporting was framed in such a way as to simply make POTUS look bad. And, as Trump noted, the Pentagon has stated that it “has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports.”

Nevertheless, the President is not helping his case by appearing to deny that the intelligence even exists. Republican congressmen who received an intelligence briefing on Tuesday explained things far better.

According to NPR, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas stated, “I think the allegations are very serious. And if true, I think we need to take swift and severe action against Putin and his mercenaries.” McCaul also explained that the IC was divided on the matter. As I noted earlier, apparently the NSA is strongly dissenting with other agencies, especially the CIA on the Russian bounties issue.

Trump should follow McCaul’s approach – state that the intelligence is still not conclusive, note that the media is out to get him, and these illegal leaks have undermined the ICs ability to get to the bottom of the things.

But – then the President should also state unequivocally that he intends to get answers – and if it is proven that Russian military intelligence paid bounties to kill American troops, it is unacceptable, and Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Russia will be held accountable.

That would be Trump’s far better response.

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Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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John Isbell
John Isbell
2 years ago

All we get is unconfirmed reports. This is a big to do about nothing. Where did this report come from? Did Adam Smith or Nadler report this ????

Nick1
Nick1
2 years ago
Reply to  John Isbell

And why didn’t Schiff and Pelosi know about this alleged Intelligence report? Are they lying AGAIN or ARE they that incompetent? Or both?

Jerry Rockwell
Jerry Rockwell
2 years ago
Reply to  John Isbell

If the President made strong rebuttals to ‘fake news’, he would have no time to even sleep, let alone run the country. And that is exactly what the ‘fake news’ is shooting for. Fake News should be called out by every American. Satan is the ‘father of lies’ and those who perpetuate those lies work for him, even if they pretend not to know it.

Boaz
Boaz
2 years ago

It was Obama who chumed up to Russia and got stiffed! He promised not to move missiles into the Ukraine and then he whispered to Medvedev, “Tell Vladimir I will have more flexibility when I am re-elected” Just what did that mean Democrats??

Also for the Democrats, Would you be happy if Trump Bombed Moscow???? Would any of you dorks have the balls to do what Trump has already done to punish Russia?????

He has em by the OIL and Gas he is putting missiles into Ukraine and more. He isn’t lifting two pound weights while Vladimir was bench pressing 350 pounds. LOL!

steveo
steveo
2 years ago

i totally agree and he should look into it!but the media should report their source!first he wasn’t briefed on it and it is a non confirmed rep0ort so it could have come from anyone!too late as the media has already pu
ut it out there to make trump look like a liar!